The Main-Danube-Canal

Now it was time for the Main-Danube-Canal, climbing up 175 m in 11 locks to the highest point of the European waterway-system, 406 meters above sea-level and then 68 meters down through another five locks to the Danube. Katinka and Odd, who did this two years ago (see ”Katinkabloggen”, easy to find on Google) and have been an invaluable source of information, guidebooks and maps, warned me that the upward locks were tough as they (to save water) fill the uphill locks from the side putting a lot of pressure on the boat. That is also why I had arranged for my strongest mate, Lennart, to join us on this trip (see picture with Lennart at the rope).
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Just when the locks started to fill up there was some pressure and I was pleased to have a strong mate then, but it was quite manageable with just holding the ropes with our hands. What also made it easy was that many of the locks also had ”Schwimpollern”, that is floating bollards to tie the boat to, which move up and down with the water. Some of the locks were really enormous, the biggest ones 25 meters (hard to really get on a picture).
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The worst ordeal we had was not holding the ropes but to get the boat within reach of the floating bollard behind one of these enormous Viking cruise-boats which left it´s engines on, causing lots of turbulence behind. My boat turned around several times in the lock before I managed to use the turbulence to my advantage. In most locks, though, we were alone in our little dwarf-boat, and I was really surprised that they ran the lock just for us and didn´t make us wait for commercial ships before they let us through. A reasonable explanation is that the locks themselves produce so much electricity that it is really a net gain to run them.
The canal also had several attractions on the way. One of the best was the city of Bamberg where the canal starts and where we spent two days, changing crew, doing a whole lot of wash and enjoying this very charming city with a well preserved medieval center surrounded by the river Regnitz and the canal. One of the attractions was the old cityhall, which was built in the middle of the river in 1336 as a protest against the ruling bishop, who refused to give the people a piece of land for the cityhall (see picture).
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We also had a half day in Nürnberg, interesting but more pompous and not with Bamberg´s charm. To counter the heavy nazi history the city has become a city of peace and human rights and had as a main attractions a human rights monument, where the UN declaration of Human Rights was inscribed on a long row of pillars in many languages (see picture).
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The nature around the canal was beautiful with serene farmland and miles of rolling tree-covered hills. One night we stayed over night just after the last upward lock, a magic night with a peaceful landscape and two wildly singing larks over the fields (see picture)
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We also encountered and solved one major problem on the way. The generator of the boat-engine had for several days signalled that it did not function OK, which had to be fixed. In the first marina after Bamberg, Marina Süss, there was a mechanic who had been recommended and who right away took on the problem, found that the generator was dead and in less than two days had installed a new generator. With a small delay and 600 € the problem was solved.

So Saturday July 8th we left the Main-Danube-Canal and steered the boat out to ”der schoenen blauen Donau” (see Lennart´s video).


From Lagarde in France we had gone 885 km and passed 95 locks. Before us is the Danube with no less than 2410 km to the Black Sea but no more than 18 locks, all downhill, which will take two more months. After having conquered the last uphill locks in the Main-Danube-Canal I have the feeling that the the worst challenges have been met and dealt with. Of course the Danube will have it´s challenges too. But I now feel I have so much experience as a traveller on the canals and rivers of Europe that I feel a lot of confidence that the challenges which will come up will be manageable. More and more I get these flow-feelings that are often the most enjoyable part of boating, a life-flow and now also river-flow. The Danube will give us a strong flow on a winding way down to the Black Sea.

Author: nilsassarson

Retired child psychiatrist but still working part-time. I am recently married to an american woman and we are living halftime in Stockholm, Sweden halftime in Palo Alto, Ca, USA. Have three kids and nine grandkids from earlier marriage.

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